Teaching is not easy. There are 299 million things to do, and our to do lists are never blank. Despite our long lists, there is something that should never take a back seat: the nourishment we provide for a child’s soul. There are simple, yet effective things we can do everyday to nourish a child’s soul.
From The Heart
5 things teachers can do to nourish a child’s soul
Every morning I stand by the door with a great big smile and I shake my kiddos’ hands and give out big hugs. The thing is-some days I don’t feel like it, but I do it anyway. Some days I want to stay in bed and not be an adult. After my morning hellos, I always feel so much better. Chances are, my morning, as hectic as it may have been does not equate to the hardship one or more of my students may have had. We always sing our morning song and go around and say hello to one another.
Acknowledgement goes a long way. Let your kids know that you appreciate them being there. Let them know that you are aware of their presence and that you are glad to see them. School is sometimes their refuge. The last thing they need is a grumpy teacher who doesn’t even acknowledge their existence.
It can be something as simple as leaving a sticky note or writing a nice message on their desks. The look on a child’s face when they come in and find a nice note on their desk is truly priceless. In the same way that we are quick to correct their behavior when they are not doing what they are supposed to, we should be able to let them know when they are doing great!
This is a big one! My first year of teaching I created a template that I would send to parents when their child was not doing well in school. It was a checklist and I would simply put a check mark next to the infraction. It’s important for parents to know if their child is not behaving or progressing academically, but we often forget to tell parents when their children are excelling. This year I created a template that I send home when students do well. We have to give students the opportunity to celebrate their successes at home. Sometimes we may not have time to send a good note home so maybe just give a parent a thumbs up at dismissal and a big smile. Don’t just bombard parents with bad news all the time. It not only crushes kids to have hyper vigilance on their negative behavior, but it also crushes the parents.
We are teachers; we have differentiation for breakfast. We can create the same lesson in 5 different ways depending on the group we are working with. Have you considered that how we approach students should also be differentiated? Your style may not work for every student. I am very big on classroom management and I have very high expectations of student behavior, but not all students can be approached in the same way. Some kids need me to give them a stern look while others need a private chat in the hallway. Some kids need a calm voice when spoken to and others may need for you to lay out the expectations in a more authoritative way. Growing up, I could not deal with a teacher getting really close and yelling at me. I needed them to approach me privately and let me know what I needed to work on. If a teacher were to address me harshly and in public, I would shut down and not produce for the rest of the day. We have so many different kids from so many different walks of life. We want them to all be successful, but we must meet them at their needs and not just lean on what works for us because it’s “our style.”
In a time where high stakes testing is at its prime, now more than ever kids need to be honored for their individuality. Take who they are and capitalize on it. I remember my mom always telling me that I had a very strong character. I still do, but I’ve taken that strong character and turned it into passion. I approach things ready to conquer them. I’ve managed to turn my aggressiveness into assertiveness.
Students need your guidance on how to navigate life. We are their teacher and not their parent, but a big chunk of students’ time is spent with us-how can we use that time to help them grow not only academically, but also as successful individuals? Take what they bring to the table and make it work for them. Take their talents and use them for their advantage and their growth. I once had a student who loved to tell everyone what to do (some day she’ll make a great teacher). I worked with her on how to address others without being bossy. She became a great asset in the classroom because she was able to work with others during group time to encourage student discourse and engagement.
Try one of these five strategies or all of them and see how it works out for your kiddos. Let me know in the comments how you encourage your students and help to nourish their soul.